A New York appeals judge on Monday blocked a sweeping lower court decision that invalidated newly drawn pro-Democrat legislative districts and threatened to throw the state’s election season into turmoil.
Judge Stephen K. Lindley of the Fourth New York Department of Appeals in Rochester issued the temporary stay after the state’s Democratic leaders formally challenged the lower court’s opinion last week that the maps were unconstitutional and, in some cases, manipulated for partisan gain.
He did not address the merits of the case, but indicated that he hoped to speed up his own decision on whether the lines were constitutional.
“The appeal will be greatly expedited for obvious reasons, and I anticipate a decision could be made within the next three weeks, if not sooner,” Judge Lindley wrote in a note instructing both Democrats and Republicans who braved the maps to attend a meeting on Thursday. listening.
In the short term, the suspension means that the maps approved by the Democratic-led Legislature in February, as well as the state’s primary schedule in June, will remain in effect. But it remains to be seen whether the maps will survive the appeal process.
What you should know about redistricting
Overall, analysts believe the Appellate Division is more likely to cede the Legislature’s prerogative to draw the maps and less likely to intercede in a way that would blow up this year’s election schedule than the trial judge, Patrick F. McAllister, member of the State Supreme Court. Court Judge in rural Steuben County and a Republican.
The outcome in New York has drawn intense national interest, with partisan control of three or four seats in the House of Representatives up for grabs at a time when the two parties are vying for majority coast-to-coast. The New York lines, as currently interpreted, promise to boost House Democrats while safeguarding the party’s majority in the state Senate, prompting national Republicans to spend big on the challenge. legal.
Inside New York, the tangled legal machinations have had a more immediate effect on candidates for office from both parties, who are watching the proceedings closely.
Before it was suspended, Judge McAllister’s decision had sparked campaigns to determine which districts (if any) they were actually running in. Candidates who had already spent a month gathering petitions to run in newly drawn Congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts faced the prospect of having their ranks wiped out, their costly work temporarily canceled and elections postponed. June primary election just days before the petition process was due to end.
“On the eve of the petition filing deadline, the candidates, both the incumbents and the insurgents, were out of breath,” said Jerry H. Goldfeder, an election attorney at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan who advises Democratic candidates. .
He called it “a perfect example of why the courts should not interfere with election procedures at the last minute.”
Although Justice McAllister did not explicitly delay the primary election, his order for lawmakers to redraw new district lines that could win bipartisan support would almost certainly have required the primary to be rescheduled.
The ruling prompted the State Board of Elections to issue guidance late last week that prematurely said the decision had been suspended and warned candidates that “all other statutory deadlines remain in effect pending further action.” court determinations and petitions are still due this week.”
How US Redistricting Works
What is redistricting? It is the redrawing of congressional and state legislative district lines. It occurs every 10 years, after the census, to reflect changes in the population.
But after the board posted that guidance on Twitter, attorneys for the Republican plaintiffs said the messages were spreading misinformation. On Friday, they sent a cease and desist letter demanding that the state remove the post from Twitter unless and until there is an actual stay from a judge, which didn’t come until Monday.
John J. Faso, a former Republican congressman who helped in the GOP lawsuit, admitted that Judge Lindley’s suspension had now clarified the situation, but predicted that his side would still prevail in the appeals process.
“While the Democrats want to delay the judicial process in order to hold an election with these unconstitutional maps, we are confident that the courts will pick up on that tactic and order constitutional maps for the 2022 election,” Mr. Faso said Monday.
The higher courts could uphold or reverse Justice McAllister’s decision, or they could choose another option: order the maps to be redrawn, but not until after this year’s election. Such a scenario would likely mean that New York would hold midterm elections in 2022 and again in 2023.
With that in mind, Christine C. Quinn, a senior Democratic Party official, said her advice to those seeking office was simple and consistent: “People should keep running, keep running hard, stick with the campaign plan they they had since Day 1.”
She added: “This is not unusual.”